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Expelled Church Members Sue Church, Directors and Officers

Court agrees to resolve former members' complaint.

Key point. According to the minority view, the civil courts may engage in "marginal review" of disputes involving the discipline of a church member, in a few limited circumstances if they can do so without inquiring into religious doctrine or polity. For example, a few courts have been willing to review membership dismissals in one or more of the following limited circumstances: (1) the church interfered with a member's civil, contract, or property rights; (2) the disciplining body lacked authority to act; (3) the church failed to comply with its governing documents; (4) the church's decision was based on fraud or collusion; or (5) interpretation of contested terminology in the church's governing documents.

A Hawaii court ruled that it was not barred by the First Amendment from resolving a complaint by several expelled church members challenging the legality of their expulsion. A group of ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • March 1, 2009